Last year, a friend of mine forwarded me an article in the New York Times Diner's Journal about a new trend of eating without seeing. I was intrigued but the concept soon flew away from the front of my mind as many things do.
Fast forward to 2013 when I had the fortune of being surprised with dinner at Mayan Cafe. However, this was not the normal dinner at this popular Market Street eatery. We were to eat while blindfolded. I had to admit, the closer we got to the start of the meal the more nervous and excited I got. Naturally I worried that I would end up throwing delicious food all over the room and missing my mouth with regularity.
Surprisingly this was not the case. Servers gently guided your hand to your silverware or cocktail and informed you where the plate was. With some gentle searching, it was really manageable.
The meal was four courses, each paired with a cocktail. I would tell you about the presentation but we all know now that I didn't see it. I really didn't. I have no idea what the meal looked like. I didn't dare peek. I wanted to have the full experience.
First thing I noticed was the effort it took just to have a conversation as we waited between courses. Without being able to see my dinner mate's mouth and facial expressions, it was hard to understand what he was saying and to be certain of his tone. Everyone else in the room seemed to compensate by talking louder which made it even more difficult.
The first cocktail came out and we were able to ascertain that the dominant flavors were cucumber and mint. We didn't pick out the gin but we both agreed we probably couldn't have regardless of sight. We were then served our first course which was soft, mousse-like, and topped with something crunchy. When we were asked what we tasted, a variety of answers came out, none of which were accurate. My guess was a mild white fish mousse. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was an eggplant flan topped with candied hazelnuts.
Our second course was served with what we initially guessed was a blood orange cocktail. We were close, it was in fact a blood orange sangria. While we couldn't determine that the second dish was shark, we did guess something along the lines of swordfish. Having never eaten shark in my life, I was satisfied with my guess. It's delicious by the way. It was firm, but soft in texture and very delicate in flavor.
We were then served a red wine which was pretty obvious to all of us as we tucked into course three. We agreed it was likely a roast of red meat, perhaps a grass-fed beef. We proudly correctly guessed the sauce as some variation of mole. Turns out the meat was goat, but again, having only had goat a few times in my life, I was happy with our guess.
We closed the meal with a chocolate raspberry goat cheese roulade with zapote-goat cheese ice cream. A few people guessed lychee ice cream but I imagine it's because they haven't had zapote often. What got us was the accompanying drink. It was a Ca'rossa Birbet sparking red and it was divine. We assumed it to be a sparkling cocktail, perhaps soda water with a home made shrub. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
If you are looking for something new to try, I really recommend trying to grab a spot at the next Lights Out dinner here in town. It definitely puts a new perspective on multiple aspects of dining. From conversation, to your palate it can reinvent the act of eating for you. Keep an eye out for future opportunities by liking the Mayan Cafe's facebook page.